5 Dec 2023

Parliament swearing-in marked by Te Pāti Māori oaths

2:00 pm on 5 December 2023
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi

Te Pāti Māori's co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Te Pāti Māori MPs' swearing in at Parliament appears to have included oaths to King "Harehare", as well as to mokopuna, the Treaty and tikanga Māori.

Ahead of the swearing-in as part of the Commission Opening of Parliament on Monday, the party's leaders had spoken about not wanting to swear to King Charles and his descendents.

During the swearing-in, the party's MPs all prefaced their vows with a different vow, first in te reo Māori, then in English.

Tākuta Ferris, in ceremonial garb, was the first from the party to be called.

"I, Takuta Ferris, swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to our mokopuna according to tikanga Māori. I will perform my functions and duties and exercise my powers in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi," he said.

Te Pāti Maori MP Tākuta Ferris, in ceremonial garb, has sworn allegiance to mokopuna under Te Tiriti o Waitangi before also swearing allegiance to the King. The first MP from the party to be called, he was accompanied by a karanga.

Te Pāti Maori MP Tākuta Ferris, in ceremonial garb, has sworn allegiance to Mokopuna under Te Tiriti o Waitangi before also swearing allegiance to the King. The first MP from the party to be called, he was accompanied by a karanga. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

He then performed a haka before fulfilling the affirmation or oath of allegiance to the King, again in te reo Māori.

The oath was not disputed by the Clerk of the House at the time, and the swearing-in continued. All the party's MPs were accompanied by waiata, haka or karanga as they made their oaths.

However, the King they swore to was "Kīngi Harehare", which translates as a scab, skin rash, or something offensive or objectionable.

The usual affirmation in te reo Māori is to Kīngi Tiāre te Tuatoru.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said Harehare was just another name for Charles.

"I've got an uncle that I would never call him that, but those are the words that we use on the coast," he said.

Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said they were also being provocative.

"Always provocative because that's what we have. The kohanga generation has arrived."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones seemed to take little issue with the name.

"That's just another translation," he said. "They're trying to make fun of the transliteration 'Hare', which if said as 'harehare' is kind of a transliteration of Charlie but it also means 'something objectionable'.

Shane Jones

Shane Jones Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"I think the guts of the oath was addressed by them, but know this from me: I put my Māori language ability up against anyone in this house, and when I detect that the language was being used for cultural bullying they're going to meet a bigger bully in the form of matua."

He said the "kapa haka theatrics", however, were "excessive".

"It is preposterous that the Māori Party should think that they are the authentic voice for Māori New Zealanders. I remind everyone again that party got less than 3 percent of the vote and a lot of their party voters were not Māori, a lot of them were hippies."

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Waititi said what was done today had not harmed anyone.

"Nobody got hurt today, lightning didn't come down and fire anybody up the arse. It's just the way it is," he said.

"We made it clear that we've had the stain of the current oath, so we swore our own oath, how we think an oath should be sworn in Aotearoa - it should reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi but there should also be a commitment to our mokopuna.

"You can't make any changes or additions to the oath, right, so we didn't do any of that. All it was, was doing something before that and then being able to swear our own oath to our mokopuna and to the mana of te tiriti o Waitangi."

Ngarewa-Packer said MPs should be allowed to swear on Te Tiriti rather than the Crown, but wouldn't go so far as to say all MPs should be required to.

"There should be an option available. We are tangata whenua, there are indigenous peoples here and there are indigenous kaupapa. And I think what we've introduced is how easy it could be done and no one was offended except for a couple on the left [of us in Parliament]," she said.

Labour's Māori Development spokesperson Willie Jackson said he thought the rules should change.

"I think it was very challenging, I thought it was well done on their part and they're challenging the House, and the good thing with the House is they're finding ways to accommodate the tikanga.

"I think the House protocols should change. I think tikanga changes. I think that the reality is there's got to be a way to accommodate our culture at different times and ... we've already started the process in terms of taking ties off.

"In terms of tikanga Māori, I have no problems in supporting what they're doing there."

When he heard ACT leader David Seymour had called the events "performative narcissism", Jackson disagreed.

"No, he can go jump in the lake," he said. "They have every right to advance tikanga Māori, they're not walking on anyone's mana in the house, I think a lot of people enjoyed some of the things that they saw - they're making a protest in terms of the Treaty and in terms of te ao Māori and we should all support that."

He said he had also thought about not swearing to the Crown since he first entered Parliament in 1999, "but I just haven't done it because I've got too much other mahi to do".

Waititi seemed to welcome Seymour's comment.

"If it was about us, I love living rent-free in his mind ... this is not theatrics. This is about our cultural identity and expression in this House and I'll continue to do that."

MPs are not allowed to sit or vote in the House, or serve on a select committee, until they have been sworn in. This can be an oath of allegiance, or an affirmation.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs